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Our View: Voters who research the issues and study the candidates will decide Mitt Romney is the most qualified candidate for president.

There will be long-term consequences to the decisions made Nov. 6, when the final tally will be reached in the hard-fought presidential campaign pitting the Democratic incumbent, Barack Obama, against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Obama or Romney will assume the responsibilities and issues inherent with the presidency, along with the parallel challenges for which the leader of the free world will be held accountable. Before entering the polling place, voters should carefully research the positions held by Obama and Romney on both their preferences and on the nation’s most-critical issues:

• Job creation and the economy;

• National security;

• Energy independence;

• Balancing the federal budget;

• Securing and reforming entitlements, notably Social Security and Medicare;

• Stability in the Mideast;

• Bridging the partisan divide.

In several categories, it is difficult to make a clear choice between Obama, who has a presidential record, and Romney, who touts his experiences as a CEO and governor. National security and stability in the Mideast are two such categories, with Obama deserving credit for the elimination of Osama bin Laden and ending our entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Mideast, however, remains a challenge for the nation with the possibility of Iran creating a nuclear weapon and using it to achieve the regularly stated goal of Iranian president and holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the map. Obama sends mixed messages in this area, but it can’t be foretold with certainty that Romney’s assurance of stronger support for Israel will yield better results for the U.S. The region will remain a minefield for the next president, perhaps many to follow.

We suspect, however, that Romney will be more capable of consistently supporting our nation’s allies and consistently standing firm against rogue nations and supporters of terrorism than Obama, who shocked and disappointed many Americans by bowing to foreign leaders and apologizing for past actions by the nation.

For those reasons and for his clearly visible superiority on the remainder of the nation’s most critical issues, The Southern Illinoisan supports the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a U.S. Congressman from Wisconsin. The record of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden simply falls short of what is needed in the next four years. Actions speak louder than words, including the soaring rhetoric of Obama.

We recommend voting for Romney and Ryan, especially in consideration of the golden opportunity that Obama failed to fully capitalize. He took office with a strongly Democratic U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. If it truly had been his goal to balance the federal budget, the necessary actions could have easily been launched. Instead, Obama presided over a federal spending spree that badly escalated a financial crisis created by the presidency of George W. Bush. His spending in four years exceeds the spending of Bush in eight years. Additionally, Obama’s pre-election promises of bipartisan teamwork and governmental transparency were not kept, more likely from inexperience as a leader than dishonesty.

As president, Obama often appears overwhelmed. Romney has prior leadership experience as a governor and CEO. He has the business acumen one expects in a proven leader. Romney would not decide the answer to a depleted checkbook is more and faster spending, financed by the Chinese. And he has pledged what needs to be done to truly stimulate the economy — reduce tax rates, cut the over-regulation of business and energy producers and ease the financial burdens associated with the Affordable Health Care Act.

In the area of energy independence, Romney and Ryan starkly contrast with Obama, who shackled the coal industry through EPA rule-making, unwisely spiked the Keystone pipeline and inhibited the use of federal lands for oil exploration and drilling and for off-shore drilling. Romney offers a vision of continued green energy research and development along with North American energy independence in eight years; Obama went all-in on risky and unproven wind and solar ventures. Gasoline today is nearly $4 per gallon; it was less than $2 when he took office.

Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Health Care Act, should either be repealed or modified, beginning with the restoration of more than $700 billion in funding from Medicare. Romney has the financial skill set to get the job done and previous experience with a statewide health care act inaccurately described as the same as what even the president (proudly) calls Obamacare.

Romney needs to preserve the Medicare and Social Security benefits promised to and paid for by retirees and those nearing retirement. But he also will need to recognize the realities of longer lives and longer working careers in shaping and sustaining the entitlement programs for future generations.

Such efforts will require good faith overtures to Democrats — efforts that aren’t bipartisan are likely to be doomed in the next U.S. Congress. Romney proved he was capable of bipartisan success in leading Massachusetts, an overwhelmingly Democratic state, and both sought and appointed female candidates to key leadership positions — a record that throws water on heated rhetoric about an imagined GOP war on women.

We endorse the candidacies of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. In the days leading up to Nov. 6 Election Day we recommend researching their positions on the issues and using common sense to assess their qualifications. An open-minded assessment of the candidates and their qualifications leads inescapably to a decision a Romney-Ryan ticket best for Southern Illinois and the nation.

Vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Feedback: We want to hear what you have to say. Type your thoughts about our editorials by clicking on the “discussion” tab in the online version of this opinion at www.thesouthern.com/news/opinion/ If you want to see your comments in the newspaper, e-mail them directly to gary.metro@thesouthern.com along with your name, address and telephone number.

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